- Kang Yang-gu Freelance Columnist
President Moon Jae-in has appointed Professor Park Ki-young박기영 of Sunchon National University to head the Science, Technology and Innovation Office in the Ministry of Science and ICT과학기술정보통신부. It is a vice minister’s post but no less than a ministership because it has a right to control the nation’s R&D budget of 20 trillion won ($18 billion). This explains why the science and technology community had shown much interest in who would take the post. As a vice ministerial post, it does not even require a confirmation hearing.
Professor Park served at Cheong Wa Dae as a presidential advisor for the science and technology in 2005 when Dr. Hwang Woo-seok황우석 ruined himself by manipulating his research papers. Park was one of the trios who took the lead in supporting Hwang, along with Kim Byung-jun김병준, then head of Policy Office, and Jin Dae-je진대제(陳), former minister of information and communication. Park was also on the lips of critics by listing her name as the co-author of the fabricated pater published in the journal Science in 2004.
Professor Park had kept silence throughout the Hwang Woo-suk scandal and stepped down from her post only after the manipulation came to broad daylight in January 2006. A year later, she bounced back like a roly-poly toy by becoming a member of the presidential policy planning committee. Her media upon returning to the government job was impressive, indeed.
Commenting on her resignation from the post in the wake of the scandal, Park said, “I didn’t fully agree with some parts of the controversy but took the responsibility because it was so enormous an incident.” She also said, “I think I have received sufficient beating.” Never did she mention a word like “self-reflection,” as most people in her situation would have done.
Was she free from the responsibility, then? There were suspicions about the 2004 paper in the Science alone. The investigation committee of Seoul National University announced she “didn’t contribute” to the 2004 paper, giving her an indulgence under the pretext of “non-involvement.”
But it is a serious problem to list her name as the co-author of the paper to which she contributed nothing. The scientific community criticized her as “a free-rider” or “a new form of entertainment named putting one’s name on the paper by funneling research funds.”.
Conscious of such criticism, Park stressed she conducted “joint research” enough to list her name as the co-author of the 2004 paper ("Because I advised for research ethics, I accepted the proposal for co-authorship.") If we accept her excuse on face value, she is apparently the person who should take responsibility for the manipulated paper. Paper manipulation is the most glaring example of violating "research ethics.”
Even though she doesn’t have direct responsibility, it is all too apparent Professor Park induced the late President Roh Moo-hyun to provide extensive support for Hwang as one member of the trio. However, she neither acknowledged her responsibility, then and now, nor sought forgiveness for it. Park just continue to peep into the political circles and made a huge comeback like now.
To anyone’s eyes, her acts were the example of the deep-rooted evil subject for elimination and not those of a person who should materialize President Moon’s philosophy in state administration.
Can Park Ki-young’s science and technology ensure future of Korea?
Some people make positive interpretations of Moon’s appointment of Park, saying, “Let’s give her an opportunity instead of wrangling about things that happened a decade ago” or “This is a good chance a ‘scientist’ can hold sway on science-technology administration that had been dominated by bureaucrats.” I can understand how President Moon’s supporters feel about this appointment, but they are dead wrong on this issue.
The biggest problem with the nation’s science and technology policy is the failure of its fundamental principle of “concentrating on a selected few sectors” over the past few decades. As the result of focusing on specific areas that could be of help for economic growth, the nation has managed to tag around the U.S., Europe and Japan. However, the policy has driven unselected sectors – or the overall science and technology for that matter – into a state of withering away.
Even the previously selected areas aren’t in good conditions. As fads change frequently, everybody sought to follow the changing trends. Some lucky beneficiaries are under constant pressure to produce visible results. Dr. Hwang’s paper manipulation should be seen as the encounter of such a bad system and the aberration of a bad individual.
Who is Professor Park Ki-young? She was the person who took the lead in creating this bad system, which focused research money on the seemingly promising Hwang, as the core official of the Roh administration’s science and technology policy. In other words, she was the “architect of Hwang Woo-suk.” The bad system even turned worse under the two conservative governments of Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye.
Should they give the great authority to allocate the R&D budget of 20 trillion won back to Professor Park?
If only President Moon drops his intent to pick up people with “right code,” he can find numerous field scientists armed with abilities to do both honest research and shrewd administration. I can recommend at least three persons who can perform far better than Professor Park Ki-young if given chances and be welcomed by the scientific community, too.
Divvying up research funds based on private networks
Let me add one more word. The worst monster born by the policy based on selection and concentration is the divvying up of research funds based on various private networks. They aren’t interested in the future of Korean science and technology or the fostering of the next generation at all. Even at this moment, they are busy wondering whom they should grab to get research money.
Already, I can hear many people in science and technology areas are queuing up in front of Park. Can she reform this situation? I am skeptical given the science and technology policy of the Roh administration. Come to think of it, Park happens to be my senior in the same department of the same university. Would I, a distant junior, criticize my senior if the appointment weren’t so bad?
I sincerely ask President Moon to reconsider the appointment of Professor Park to the position.